Shop Etsy

Real World Education: A Student-Run Shop

Jun 7, 2010

by NiftyKidstuff handmade and vintage goods


Caitlin Betsy Bell learned how to sew as a toddler and got her first sewing machine at age six. Her love of fabrics and fiber art continued and she is now a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design. She runs her Etsy shop, NiftyKidstuff, while attending college.

In my freshman year at SCAD, I set up my Etsy shop, NiftyKidstuff, on a whim — I had already been selling my handmade creations since age fifteen at craft shows and on my own website. Little did I know that my seasonal business (which picked up around the holidays and craft shows) would become steady enough to be my job while in school. Being at art school, there are a lot of costs associated with all of the supplies needed for classes. Luckily I now have my Etsy shop to support these expenses!

Being my own boss while in school has taught me a lot of skills, with time management being paramount, especially in times like finals week (which, coincidentally, is right now). It is super important to budget time for school, work, and a social life. I am really lucky to have the sweetest mom who I can call on to help out if needed — she did teach me how to sew, after all!

I am studying Fibers with a concentration in Studio Production, so what I do for my Etsy shop really coincides with my studies. There is a lot of overlap, since I take studio classes like Screenprinting, Art Quilt, Weaving, Repeat Pattern Design, Embellished Surfaces, and Images on Fabric. Essentially I’m earning a degree to do what I already do, but it has been really influential in the thought and development of my pieces. These new skills allow my work to be a representation of myself as an artist and designer, rather than just making because I want to.


My goal is to provide an alternative to mass-produced throw-away toys that saturate the children’s market today. I aim to design lasting items that are to be treasured and enjoyed for years to come. I also try to promote interactivity and pretend play through my toys. I always want to create something with impeccable craftsmanship, made from all-natural fibers of the best quality, in order to provide a unique and authentic experience. I put a little bit of myself and a lot of love in everything I do.pinkpretendsewingmachine.jpg

Etsy has been absolutely wonderful in providing me with the opportunity to work while in school. Being self-employed takes a lot of commitment, but the flexibility of my schedule and the opportunities that I find through the process make it so worth it. I will be interning this summer with Denyse Schmidt Quilts in Bridgeport, CT to learn more techniques, and then I have one more year left at school. I look forward to continuing with my shop — who knows what that future will hold!

Best of luck to you, Caitlin!
You can visit her website,, or follow her on her blog.

Are you or is someone you know a student running an Etsy shop? Tell us in the comments below!

Quit Your Day Job Series | Handmade Toys | College Related Articles


  • adrienneaudrey

    adrienneaudrey said 7 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your story. I love your shop!

  • VintageEye

    VintageEye said 7 years ago

    Fantastic post! Continued success to you, Caitlin!

  • AngelEllie

    AngelEllie said 7 years ago

    what a great article...thank you Caitlin for sharing your story! I will be passing it on to others who are in college!

  • UpsideDownsideDark

    UpsideDownsideDark said 7 years ago

    The pretend sewing machine is totally adorable! Your ideas are brilliant and your success well-deserved :)

  • Ayca

    Ayca said 7 years ago

    Lovely shop! Thanks for sharing your story :)

  • Nostalgia

    Nostalgia said 7 years ago

    very cute toys!

  • Waterrose

    Waterrose said 7 years ago

    How wonderful to think of longer lasting, cherished toys for all of the kids that we love!

  • BlushEnvy

    BlushEnvy said 7 years ago

    I've admired your work for "forever"! I had no idea you were so young-and I mean that as a huge compliment! You have an amazing career ahead of you and some serious skills girl~ Best wishes~ Brandy

  • EvelynX

    EvelynX said 7 years ago

    Great story, it is nice to know that there are more fellow artists with their own shop while attending school. I am also a student running an etsy shop. I attend art 4 days a week and run my business at night and weekends. As a full time students it is very convenient to run your own business because I can spend as much or as little time in it and don't have to worry about having to commute to work after/before school. Also, by having my own business I can spend as much time as I need to do my homework :)

  • locketmoon

    locketmoon said 7 years ago

    I thought the play sewing machine was a sewing machine cover on a real sewing machine, it's so realistically shaped! Very cute items.

  • poppyswickedgarden

    poppyswickedgarden said 7 years ago

    omg that sewing machine is too cute! great article:)

  • maggie16

    maggie16 said 7 years ago

    It is wonderful to hear the story of someone who is studying (like me) AND successfuly running their own creative business! Thanks for sharing your story Caitlin - very inspiring to know that study + ETSY can work!

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 7 years ago

    Cool article handmade toys are just so damn cute!

  • jellybeans

    jellybeans said 7 years ago

    It's great to see other students out here! I'm one as well, and time is sort when you're trying to juggle both :)

  • jaceylucus

    jaceylucus said 7 years ago

    Fantastic work! It's so a joy to see what you can do on etsy while still attending school! You are so very talented and I can't wait to see where you end up! Congrats on the blog!

  • dkgeneralstore

    dkgeneralstore said 7 years ago

    Great story and what a lovely shop! Thanks for sharing!

  • grayday

    grayday said 7 years ago

    awesome products, love the sewing machine! Such an inspiring story, thanks for sharing!

  • WoodlandBelle

    WoodlandBelle said 7 years ago

    I love it! As a former art teacher I just get thrilled when I read about students making it on their creative talent. Congratulations Caitlin!

  • badplatypus

    badplatypus said 7 years ago

    I'm a college student too! It looks like there are so many out there, thanks for the great article!

  • TheVintageApartment

    TheVintageApartment said 7 years ago

    This is such an inviting & inspiring article - thanks for sharing your past, present & future love of sewing! I love your Pretend Sewing Machines. :)

  • worksofwhimsy

    worksofwhimsy said 7 years ago

    Great story. Let's hear it for imagination powered toys!

  • LisasLittleCreations

    LisasLittleCreations said 7 years ago

    love the sewing machine & your story. My daughter is now inspired to continue with her art work while finishing high school. Congrats!!

  • caty99

    caty99 said 7 years ago

    Wonderful items! Thank you for sharing. It's very inspiring and has given me a boost of energy and hope. Thank you!

  • tracyray98

    tracyray98 said 7 years ago

    I love, love, LOVE the pretend sewing machine and the decorate a gingerbread house in the sold items. I wish I would have thought of those toys! Super cute!!!!!

  • recycledwares

    recycledwares said 7 years ago

    very cute work and blog. i really like the sewing machine. what a fun toy for kids.

  • DevineExpressions

    DevineExpressions said 7 years ago

    wonderful interview.reach for the stars.Keep creating.

  • busterandboo

    busterandboo said 7 years ago

    So talented!!

  • CaliforniaCraft

    CaliforniaCraft said 7 years ago

    Very inspiring!

  • AZCreativeStudio

    AZCreativeStudio said 7 years ago

    Great story! Caitlin you are very creative!

  • madebymarcia

    madebymarcia said 7 years ago

    Everything you make is soooo incredibly cute!

  • TeenahTime

    TeenahTime said 7 years ago

    wow, looks a lot like my studio space

  • RetroStock

    RetroStock said 7 years ago

    Love your stuff-too bad my kids don't play with toys anymore!

  • jcisco112

    jcisco112 said 7 years ago

    So inspiring!! I love the idea that you already do what you are going to school to do! Cool!

  • fingerstaches

    fingerstaches said 7 years ago

    Oh, that sewing machine is so adorable!!! Congratulations on your success! We're running our Etsy vintage shop while in college too.

  • UppityGlam

    UppityGlam said 7 years ago

    It is great to read about a fellow student with her shop up and running. I am a Mount Holyoke College student, and I am currently in the process of taking photos and getting my shop online. So nice to hear your story!

  • LilaJo

    LilaJo said 7 years ago


  • OrangeistheSun

    OrangeistheSun said 7 years ago

    what a great story. congratulations caitlin! your toys are just wonderful!!

  • craftpile

    craftpile said 7 years ago

    You're pretty amazing, Caitlin!

  • monsterbugblankets

    monsterbugblankets said 7 years ago

    what a sweet story! And I LOVE your square bear for practicing dressing--he is precious!

  • TipsyTimeMachine

    TipsyTimeMachine said 7 years ago

    Congratulations on your hard earned success Caitlin! Students are lucky to have a forum like Etsy to sell their creative wares. Back in the 90's I spent much time pounding the pavement to try and find shops to consign my work. Running your own business here on Etsy is a real business education, which is usually lacking in traditional art schools.

  • Shellinae

    Shellinae said 7 years ago


  • maggiemaevintage

    maggiemaevintage said 7 years ago

    well done!

  • EverydayEverythings

    EverydayEverythings said 7 years ago

    You items are so cute. Congratulations!

  • artwithallie

    artwithallie said 7 years ago

    You are awesome Caitlin and so brave for doing what you love at such a young age! Don't listen to any fears you may have as you get older...stay true to you!! You and your courage rock!!

  • breadandroses2

    breadandroses2 said 7 years ago

    Great cameo! Best wishes in all your endeavors!

  • GoodGriefGlass

    GoodGriefGlass said 7 years ago

    Such creative toys!

  • daniellesdesign10

    daniellesdesign10 said 7 years ago

    oh I love the sewing machine. It is just too cute! Keep up the good work.

  • Evajune

    Evajune said 7 years ago

    I'm in love with the suitcases in the first picture. You have a beautiful family.

  • TwirlVintageCo

    TwirlVintageCo said 7 years ago

    You go girl!!! The earlier you work for yourself the better. Brilliant ideas!!! Good luck with everything at SCAD, that is a wonderful program!!!

  • hubinshow

    hubinshow said 7 years ago

    I love your shop!


    ZZsROCKnRECYCLABLES said 7 years ago

    Your shop is so cute , love the stuffed toys! GREAT WORK, and VERY CREATIVE! LOTS OF LUCK

  • FloweryDeer

    FloweryDeer said 7 years ago

    Great story. Like the toys!

  • toutourouge

    toutourouge said 7 years ago

    a big hurray for handmade toys!! love your shop!!

  • ekobeko

    ekobeko said 7 years ago

    I really like your ideas behind the production "design lasting items that are to be treasured and enjoyed for years to come" I remember my childhood toys. There weren´t many but they were the best!! Nowadays you often find kids rooms filled with toys but there are randomly ´something special´ that you will remember even when you are a grown up; and perhaps still own these treasures :) So, keep up the good work young lady :)

  • davisdesignsau

    davisdesignsau said 7 years ago

    How very refreshing it is to see the passion that such a young person has to become something great! Congratulations Caitlin! Wish we had a few more like you in this world!! I also love your stuff... you have a wonderful mind!

  • friendsofmildred

    friendsofmildred said 7 years ago

    what a cute shop! I´m a full time student who just opened a shop too, I´m studying patternmaking and fashion production, keep up the good work!

  • starbitspets

    starbitspets said 7 years ago

    I am also a college student running an Etsy shop ! I used to sell products on my own website too, but I found that Etsy was a much better way of getting the word out there. It is such an easy way to meet people who have similar interests! I'm just starting out, but I hope that one day I'll have the success that you have had Caitlin! Great job, and I love your shop. :>

  • Vanessa Admin

    Vanessa said 7 years ago

    I love your name! Caitlin Betsy Bell! Big thanks to your professor Pam for introducing us while I was at SCAD. And I had a great time meeting your mom too -- she seems so totally supportive and awesome.

  • ilikeoldthings

    ilikeoldthings said 7 years ago

    HIP! HIP! HOORAY! Love it girl!

  • strawberryluna

    strawberryluna said 7 years ago

    Awwwwwwww! That's my Tegan & Sara poster in your stunningly beautiful studio :) I am so glad that you like it so much. What an inspiration and a great article. I think that it's fantastic that you've accomplished so much while still in school and can manage to combine your interests and loves into not just a business, but an education. So cool. Your work is fantastic, cheers!

  • WildOliveKids

    WildOliveKids said 7 years ago

    Great inspiring article. My daughter LoveLeeSoaps is working her way thru college (Graphic Arts)with her etsy shop. She is learning so much more than a college would ever be able to teach her by running her own business.

  • EvaCouture

    EvaCouture said 7 years ago

    I am also a student running my own store! I started out on e-bay and by word of mouth, but now I am focusing more on Etsy. I am actually transferring to SCAD from Kent State in January and I cannot wait! It's definitely hard at times to balance being a full time student and living in studio (I'm a fine arts major), as well as finding time for my business, but it is definitely worth it! It's so good to hear about other people my age who also entrepreneurs! -Adrienna

  • FerntreeFlowers

    FerntreeFlowers said 7 years ago

    Good on ya! I love love love your studio space! And that desk...droooooool... :) angie

  • ParisianDreams

    ParisianDreams said 7 years ago

    You have a lovely shop!

  • tippykwan

    tippykwan said 7 years ago

    Your desk so cool!!

  • emmawalshdesign

    emmawalshdesign said 7 years ago

    Awesome work Caitlin, I am in the same position as you - I've been studying architecture for the past four years and since graduating I have actually gone in a complete opposition direction and decided to pursue a passion of interior design, artwork, jewellery and homewares and set up a website at the end of last year, i have since started studying interior design and small business management and have recently started selling on etsy as a wee source of income. The growth of my business has now allowed to me to quit work in a cafe in favour of focusing solely on my creative pursuits and I'm loving every minute of it!

  • paperexploits

    paperexploits said 7 years ago

    Beautiful post, and such lovely pictures :] I'm also a student, pursuing a degree in English Literature at the National University of Singapore. I love to send/receive things in the mail, and sell handmade stationery in a country that has little time and interest for such indulgences; most people here say 'move over, handmade cards-- e-mail is here!'. And that's a huge reason for why I love Etsy-- a whole community that stands up to say 'the heart and art that goes into handmade goods is worth it'? Heck yes!

  • vivilian

    vivilian said 7 years ago

    very very beautiful creaition!!! Thank you for sharing this to us!! I love your stuff so much !

  • JeansVintageCloset

    JeansVintageCloset said 7 years ago

    Very Sweet practical, Safe and soft handmade little ones items, I love the peace and tranquility of a pacified child, eyes aglow about a new undiscovered toy, Worlds of fun

  • ezmireldagirl

    ezmireldagirl said 7 years ago

    Wow girl - you sure keep busy don't you? I love, love, love your stuff! So creative nicely done!

  • herbalphoto

    herbalphoto said 6 years ago

    Great shop! I attend SCAD as well, I'm in the photography MFA program. :) Good luck with your business!

  • atomicblue

    atomicblue said 6 years ago

    I would love to hear a follow up on her internship at Denyse Schmidt! Really nice to see a young gal so driven.

  • SewEnviousDesigns

    SewEnviousDesigns said 6 years ago

    Wow. Impressive. Love your story and your items.

  • CountrySquirrelsRUS

    CountrySquirrelsRUS said 6 years ago

    Great interview, thanks for sharing! Keep following your dreams!

  • ephemerascenti

    ephemerascenti said 6 years ago

    Great story! Quite accomplished and focused for your chronological years! Congratulations, well deserved feature!!! Good luck Caitlin in all your future endeavors!

  • peacefulpath

    peacefulpath said 6 years ago

    Wishing you lots of luck and success! Your story is very inspiring!

  • gallery32

    gallery32 said 6 years ago

    What a great story! Thanks for sharing :) Trina

  • beadworkbyamanda

    beadworkbyamanda said 6 years ago

    Wonderful story! It's always great to have an income source since college is such a money sucker! I am also a graduate student and I work at the University of Rochester studying physical chemistry. I started my shop as an undergraduate my freshman year, nearly 5 years ago. I love all that is science and art, which is reflected in my shop as well. Keep up the great work!

  • ClassicKeepsakes

    ClassicKeepsakes said 6 years ago

    My Daughter is your age, and so very jealous! Congratulations. What a wonderful achievement.

  • Littlepicture

    Littlepicture said 6 years ago

    Very inspiring article.. and I love that little stuff toy sewing machine !

  • VidGirlsandDolls

    VidGirlsandDolls said 6 years ago

    Beautiful story! I also learn sewing from my mom.

  • HollyDaise

    HollyDaise said 6 years ago

    Gorgeous shop and love your philosophy! Lets hope the world wakes up one day soon to the evil that is mass production! Hx

  • LesasPlunderPlace

    LesasPlunderPlace said 6 years ago

    A heartwarming article for heartwarming creativity. Go Caitlin!

  • EcoChicHandKnits

    EcoChicHandKnits said 6 years ago

    Such a wonderful and inspiring story! Best of luck with your finals and for continued success in your lovely shop! Thanks for sharing!

  • quiltytherapy

    quiltytherapy said 6 years ago

    Congrats on going to school for something that you love and do well with. Keep it up.

  • gypsystrunk

    Veronica Haley from gypsystrunk said 5 years ago

    So happy to see that you are following your heart! Lucky you, an internship at Denyse Schmidt Quilts! LOVE her fabric! Best of luck all around!

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